A group of prominent Republicans has put forth a carbon tax proposal, but it stands little chance of success. It may surprise some younger people, but the Republican party in America was not always home to a collection of brain-dead politicians looking to enrich themselves and stay in office by slavishly doing whatever Charles and David Koch ordered them to do. Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan were actually active supporters of environmental laws, a fact that is often overlooked by today’s ersatz Republicans who have been nurtured on the viciously pernicious anti-government drivel of the Tea Party.
Recently a collection of respected Republican stalwarts has banded together to propose that the country adopt a carbon tax starting at $40 a ton and escalating upward from there. But wouldn’t that create economic pain for American workers and their families?” Not if the money raised was distributed to the citizenry and not just added to the general treasury to pay for more and more big government nanny state programs. At $40 a ton, the group estimates its carbon tax would raise $300 billion annually and add 36 cents to the price of a gallon of gasoline.
And who are these fire-breathing radicals behind what is being called the Climate Leadership Council? A collection of rock-ribbed, tried and true Republicans like James Baker, who served as White House Chief of Staff and Secretary of the Treasury under President Ronald Reagan and as Secretary of State and White House Chief of Staff under President George H. W. Bush. He will also be remembered as the man in charge in 2000 when the hotly contested election between Al Gore and George W. Bush was decided by one vote in the US Supreme Court.
Others in the group include:
- George Shultz, former head of the Labor, Treasury and State departments as well as a director of the Office of Management and Budget
- Hank Paulson, Secretary of the Treasury in the George W. Bush administration
- Martin Feldstein, a conservative economist who led President Ronald Reagan’s Council of Economic adviser
- Greg Mankiw, the Council of Economic Advisors for George W. Bush
- Rob Walton, former chairman of the board of directors of Walmart
- California venture capitalist Thomas Stephenson
- Ted Halstead, founder of the New America Foundation.
“We have a Republican administration now — a Republican administration that could show leadership on this issue and present to the blue collar workers who were so important to Trump’s victory something that does not increase, build government, that is conservative, that is free market. Let the market determine — and there is some support out there for that now and from some quarters that normally didn’t support this kind of thing,” Baker tells CNN.
“Increasingly, climate change is becoming a defining issue for this next generation of Americans, which the GOP ignores at its own peril,” the new proposal says. “Meanwhile Asians and Hispanics — the fastest growing demographic groups — are also deeply concerned about climate change. A carbon dividends plan offers an opportunity to appeal to all three key demographics, while illustrating for them the superiority of market- based solutions.”
The plan would repeal the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan and a host of other Environmental Protection Agency regulations aimed at reducing carbon emissions. Before liberals go and get their knickers in a bunch, the authors of the plan say the initial carbon tax rate must be high enough to guarantee emissions reductions that exceed those mandated by those regulations.
“Such a plan could strengthen our economy, benefit working-class Americans, reduce regulations, protect our natural heritage and consolidate a new era of Republican leadership,” the group argues in its mission statement. “These benefits accrue regardless of one’s views on climate science.”
Newly appointed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is at least open to the idea of a carbon tax, which is one reason Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, has supported his nomination. Musk has been under fire for supporting Donald Trump, but he insists it is better to have the president’s ear than to be on the barricades waving protest signs.
A carbon tax acts as what economists call a “price signal.” Human beings are programmed to seek out the best product at the least cost. Walmart has flourished because it has relentlessly pursued low prices. Most people who go into a store comparison shop. If two loaves of bread are of equal quality and equal nutrition, the lower priced loaf will find its way into the grocery cart 9 times out of 10.
The same logic applies to energy costs. If a utility company has to pay $50 per megawatt-hour for electricity made from coal but can get the same amount of electricity for $40 per megawatt-hour from solar panels, it is going to opt for solar power every time and confer a benefit on the environment.
How interesting that old guard Republicans like Baker and his colleagues are supporting the carbon tax idea. Common sense would suggest that the so-called Republicans in Congress would rush to join their cause, but they won’t because they are climate deniers who are perfectly willing to sell their constituents down the river to satisfy their paymasters. Someone once said America has the best government that money can buy. Ain’t that the truth!
A betting man would suggest that Baker and Company will get a respectful hearing on Capitol Hill and then their proposal will sink out of sight like the Titanic on April 15, 1912. Chances are excellent that Baker and his buddies will leave Washington with little if anything to show for their noble efforts. Only when the ideologues who call themselves Republicans today are voted out of office will any serious consideration of the Climate Leadership Council or any of its proposals take place.